Pilot Amy inspires female aviators of tomorrow on International Women’s Day
• Amy Bannister, a Tui pilot with over eight years’ experience, speaks to pupils from three Manchester schools at International Women’s Day event, hosted by Manchester Airport
• Less than 5% of commercial airline pilots in the UK are women – one of the most extreme gender disparities remaining in a ‘STEM’ profession
• Other women in prominent roles at Manchester Airport also spoke to pupils, including Community Engagement Manager, Julie Walker and Kathy Morrisey, Chair of the airport’s Women’s Network
A group of pupils from three Greater Manchester schools learned how their career prospects could take off in the years ahead, as they heard from women in a range of leading aviation roles in a special International Women’s Day event at Manchester Airport’s AeroZone education centre.
Among those speaking to the pupils from Manchester Enterprise Academy, Fred Longworth High School & The King David High School was 29-year-old Amy Bannister, a Tui pilot who has been flying commercially for eight years, having started her journey in regional airlines.
Amy, who lives in Manchester, described to pupils how she fell in love with flying at a young age after her father took her up in a light aircraft. She took inspiration from her father, who was also a pilot, and her mother, an ex-cabin crew member. Amy is now a passionate advocate for women in aviation and actively encourages more women to follow suit in earning their wings.
Statistics from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots show that in 2021, less than 5% of UK commercial airline pilots were female – one of the greatest disparities in a ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) profession. In November, a female pilot went viral on TikTok when she revealed that she was frequently mistaken for a flight attendant.
Amy, however, believes that the industry is starting to turn a corner. She said: “I believe the tide is changing, and it’s not unusual at all to have an all-female crew. Working as a pilot is such an energising job, no two days are the same, and destinations change from summer to winter which provides a mix of experiences.
“I would encourage any female interested in aviation to actively pursue it and join an industry which provides equal opportunities for all”.
Amy was joined by Manchester Airport’s Community Engagement Manager, Julie Walker, and Planning & Insights Director, Kathy Morrissey, who also heads up the airport’s Women’s Network. They talked pupils through their roles, took questions and led group discussions, including a mini youth forum session. Topics debated by pupils included gender stereotypes in the workplace, equal opportunities and the future of Manchester Airport and aviation more widely.
Pupils were also shown a video exploring the many ways in which female colleagues are contributing to Manchester Airport’s £1.3 billion Transformation Programme, including the delivery of a new Terminal Two.
In the course of their visit, the group took on a team-building challenge and decorated custom t-shirts with an International Women’s Day pledge.
Rachel Akili, Manchester Airports Group’s Head of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, said: “Inspiring the next generation is crucial to building a more diverse and equitable workplace, so it was fantastic to give local schoolchildren the chance to hear from so many successful women working here at Manchester Airport.
“The pupils were all very engaged with Amy and the other speakers. I do hope this experience will broaden their horizons and prompt them to revisit what they think is possible.”
Malcolm Sutherland, Director of TUI Airways added: “We know that for our customers, their holiday begins the moment they arrive at the airport and step foot on the plane into the safe hands of our pilots.
“Pilots play such a pivotal role and we want to attract the best and the brightest who are passionate and committed to going the extra smile for our customers.
“TUI Airways has an Inspiring the Next Generation project where our pilots go into schools to talk to children about the career and encourage more females to consider a career as a pilot.
“To remove barriers to training to become a pilot, we’ve also recently launched our Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) Cadet Program in the UK which trains pilots over an 18-month period.
“This program is one of a kind, as it’s the only scheme in the UK offering 30 places a year to train pilots without any upfront cost.
“Training commences with ground school, followed by basic flying training and then the advanced flying training phases. After this, trainees gain a broader understanding of our business before commencing operational line training on the 737”.
Manchester Airport is committed to making aviation careers more accessible to underrepresented groups and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
‘Opportunity for All’ is a key pillar of airport operator Manchester Airports Group’s CSR Strategy, and efforts towards this include the establishment of several colleague-led networks, including a Women’s Network, Fly with Pride (LGBTQ+) Group, Race and Ethnicity Group, Carers’ Network and a Men’s Mental Health.
Meanwhile, the Airport Academy provides dedicated support to the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups, offering free training courses and skills workshops in partnership with Trafford College. It made over 4,000 job referrals in 2022, with many of these securing roles working for Manchester Airport or on-site partners such as ground handling agents, retailers and aviation service providers.
AeroZone, which gives children the chance to learn about the workings of an airport and the various careers available, was opened last year by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. It provides a mix of teaching space and interactive zones, including a mocked-up plane cabin with real seats and a cockpit, complete with flight simulator. It is available for school trip bookings for primary school pupils across the North West.